Coach Kevin Kezal and Thornton Academy had plenty to celebrate last year en route to an 11-0 record and the Class A championship. The Trojans never trailed in any game. But in its first game this year, Thornton trailed at halftime before rallying to beat Sanford on Friday night. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A few days before last week’s season opener at Sanford, Thornton Academy Coach Kevin Kezal was asked what he thought about the second game on his schedule. Two-time defending Class B champion Marshwood will be at Thornton’s Hill Stadium at 1:30 p.m. Saturday to take on the defending Class A champs.

“I haven’t even thought about it. Right now it’s all Sanford. That’s all we’re preparing for,” Kezal said.

Turns out Kezal was probably wise not to get ahead of himself.

Sanford gave Thornton all it wanted on Friday night.

Thornton never trailed in its perfect 2018 season. In 2019 it took one play when Sanford’s Evan Shaine took a swing pass from Xavier Levine for a 69-yard, tackle-breaking touchdown. A second Levine touchdown pass in the first quarter put Sanford ahead 13-7, a lead that held to halftime.

But after the first quarter, Thornton’s defense pitched a shutout, including a key stop in the second quarter after Sanford blocked a punt and had the ball inside Thornton’s 20. Thornton took a 14-13 lead when Payton Jones returned the second-half kickoff 91 yards for a score, then gradually pulled away to win 27-13.


“We couldn’t get out of our own way (on offense) in the first half,” Kezal said, After Thornton’s own first-play touchdown, a long run by Julien BaileyCottle, “we were just anemic,” Kezal said. “And a big part of that was the Reese kid (Sanford’s 6-4, 285 defensive tackle Reese Boucher). He was right on our center and he was a load.”

The Marshwood at Thornton game pits two of the state’s most successful programs.

Thornton, with 1,476 students, is the largest high school in Maine and has won four of the past seven Class A titles.

“I think a lot of people are looking forward to it, including ourselves,” said Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko said. “It’s a chance to see how we stack up against the strongest team in Maine. For us, it’s really a no-lose situation and if we do well, great, and if we don’t do well, I think it will make us better.”

Marshwood, with 784 students, has won four of the past five Class B titles.

“Marshwood is a great team, well-coached with a lot of very good athletes,” Kezal said on Sunday. “They run the Wing-T and they do it very well. It’s like Wing-T 2.0. They take it to another level.”


Thornton and Marshwood last met in 2010, a 41-7 Thornton win in South Berwick.

YORK WON ITS season opener for the second time under second-year head coach Matt Nelson. But the feeling after the Class C Wildcats’ 29-0 win at Class D Oak Hill was better than a year ago.

York High, with a solid rushing attack led by Hayden Henriksen, rolled up 482 total yards in a 29-0 win over Oak Hill on Saturday Joe Phelan photo/ Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Nelson raved about the play of his defensive ends, Noah Caramihalis, Joe Albert and Will Orso and the job they did containing dangerous Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron on the read-option. The spread offense rolled up 482 total yards behind junior quarterback Teagan Hynes (287 passing yards, two TDs) and a solid rushing attack led by Hayden Henriksen.

Best of all, the win didn’t come at the cost of a key player. A year ago quarterback Dawson Gundlah suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter. That put Hynes into the starting lineup sooner than expected.

“He came in last year and did really well and now he’s a year older and a year more mature. He’s stronger. He had a very good game,” Nelson said.

“Another good thing that came out of Saturday was (Hynes) came out with a clean uniform. He didn’t touch the ground once.”


Nelson said that means his offensive line of tackles Aidan Martin and Albert, guards Ryan Bricker and Troy Nelson and center Orso did its job, giving Hynes plenty of time to swing passes to a multiple threats, including Caramihalis, Riley Linn, Connor Daley, Evan Bourgoine and Riley Johnston.

TRAIP ACADEMY was another team feeling good after winning its inaugural eight-man game, 56-12, at Sacopee Valley on Friday.

Traip has been known more for its football failures: Losing 51 straight in the early 2000s, and having to halt its varsity season three games into 2017 because of a tiny roster.

“Unfortunately, Traip has been on the other end of those scores so many times,” said Eric Lane, the new head coach. “It was good to be on the other side for a change.”

Lane, a former high school coach in Colorado, is Traip’s fourth head coach in four years. He said the move to eight-man came just in time. Traip has 22 players, up five from last year.

“A lot of the kids were excited because they knew with eight-man they wouldn’t have to play iron-man football anymore,” Lane said. “We had kids that played before that came back (to the team this fall).”

Traip has 10 seniors, including “six or seven” who have played since their freshman year. Among those are Lane’s son, quarterback Bobby Lane, who threw for five touchdowns, six two-point conversions and 380 yards on Friday.

Next up for Traip is a home game with Yarmouth.

“I already told my team, don’t plan on 56 (points) every game. We’re going to be in a lot of hard-fought games,” Lane said.

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